It looks as though my soap box this semester is going to be the different methods of approaching scripture. I’ve just been reading about form criticism and that’s not actually what I want to blog about, but it did spark off a train of thought. I’ve also been reading recently some of the debate over scriptural inerrancy, infallibility and so on.
Claims for inerrancy always seem to be accompanied by great long riders over what constitutes an error. Literary gymnastics then ensue to wriggle round the very obvious inconsistencies and ‘errors’ we indisputably (I use the word reservedly) find in scripture. It occurred to me this evening that when God created this world it was ‘very good’. Not perfect, not absolutely right, not without error, but ‘very good’. Good enough, fit for purpose, just as God wanted it. It also occurred to me that our God-inspired/breathed scripture is much the same – good enough for purpose. And what’s its purpose? To point to and witness to Jesus Christ so that we may know Him and claim Him as our own Lord. And it’s good enough for that. We don’t need the letters that Paul was replying to, we don’t need Paul’s missing letters, we don’t need to know who wrote Hebrews or whether any of the other books were written by the name we put at the front. Because what we have is good enough to witness and point us to Jesus. Because when we get to that point then the Spirit has something to work with and, all too often, we forget that we worship a Trinity and that the Spirit is God as well and the Spirit has a purpose.
I really wonder if ‘inerrancy’ springs up through an unreconciled sense of doubt, a need to ‘know’ absolutely. I think it also springs up through a real misunderstanding of what/who is God’s Word. We invest that word, ‘Word’, with too much of our own meaning – text on paper and so we create a fourth member of the Trinity (if you see what I mean). And for that to be the case, the Bible has to be perfect, inerrant and ‘absolute’ – like God and not just like God, but to be God.
But I can live with doubt. The more I learn, the less I realise I know. I also realise I can’t know absolutely. But I do have faith. I have faith that God is much bigger than my doubts; that God can accommodate my doubts far better than my knowledge can hope to accommodate God.
For me, scripture is ‘good enough’. It points me sufficiently towards Jesus. It leaves room for the Spirit to work. I’ll always wrestle with scripture because I’ll never properly understand it. Even it it was perfect, it’s being read and interpreted by a very imperfect person; a person with doubts and faith.
ps – just in case this apparent ‘evangelical-bashing’ is giving liberals a sense of righteousness, I’m just as opposed to allowing scripture to be interpreted however we please, but that’s a subject for another blog, another day.